i have adventures (sometimes)

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Wolves and Bears


Is my life really exciting enough to warrant caps and, not one, but two exclamation marks? No, not really.

(I’m just kidding. It totally is.)

Mum and I arrived in York early on Saturday afternoon, by which stage I was excited to the point of bouncing up and down in my seat, although that may also have been the coffee. I really should stay away from that stuff. Or drink more of it.

The queue to check in was long, and full of people speaking Chinese, and it struck me that my brilliant plan to make lots of friends rested way too heavily on the notion that I’d somehow be able to talk to strangers here, which was pretty major plot hole, all things considered. I thought about talking to the people around me in the queue, and then pulled my Kindle out of my bag and read instead, because I win at making friends.

Having arrived a little later than I’d hoped, I worried I wouldn’t be able to execute my strategy for imposing control on the kitchen. Not that I had a strategy which involved arriving before my flatmate, setting out the washing-up liquid and cleaning products I’d bought, and dividing up shelves in the fridge, because that would be crazy. But I was still there first, so I set out all my things and was all ready to pretend to be a sane person while nevertheless making helpful suggestions about appropriate vegan cleaning products, when, in one of those moments of truly unbelievable coincidence, my flatmate turned out to be Henrik.

Once everyone had marvelled at the statistical unlikelihood of such an event, there followed a frenzied afternoon of shopping, in which mum and I stripped Argos bare (although we did kindly donate them a box of cutlery we paid for but forgot to collect) before going to strip Sainsbury’s bare, and filling my room and the kitchen with the contents instead. I spent most of the day setting up my room and unpacking, which consisted mainly of putting my dinosaur duvet cover on (the duvet, not myself), playing with the totally sci-fi touch lamps, and lumping all my clothes onto the floor of my cupboard because I didn’t have enough hangers.


...and after!
Moar dinosaurs!

 That evening was the first social event, to which I went with confidence because I am a confident and sociable person, and not just because I was still wired on coffee. Then it hit me (again) that I still didn’t know how to talk to strangers. You’d think I wouldn’t keep forgetting this. But luckily I was saved by the snowball effect, having a flatmate who had already spoken to strangers who had in turn spoken to other strangers (one of whom is another Saffa). And thus, the group was born.* Henrik and I also managed to score some free cutlery donated by previous students, so we no longer had to rely on the single plastic spoon from my handbag, which was nice.

The next morning, I tried and failed to get the internet to work, because my laptop has a very revolutionary approach to both the wired internet in my room and the wireless network elsewhere on campus and seems intent on throwing off the shackles of connectivity and trampling underfoot the working internet of oppression. But all was not lost, because one of my new friends came to join me, so at least I had someone interesting to talk to as I sadly pressed buttons in the futile hope of being able to make something work.
I ultimately admitted defeat and returned to the flat to make lunch, which deserves a mention because it was the first meal I cooked in my new kitchen. Momentous occasion! I even planned ahead and froze some, so that when term gets busy, I won’t end up relying on exam-time staples like whatever-was-in-the-cupboard and I’m-sure-this-isn’t-that-far-past-the-expiry-date. I reckon I’m getting pretty good at this grown up thing.

But because I always plan cooking time badly, I had to leave my ragout half-cooked on the stove to dash to the campus tour, which was interesting, although with my sense of direction being what it is, it taught me only that particular places existed, not where to find them again. But I did meet three more people there (not that I’m counting).

My total inability to find my way around asserted itself when I decided to find the bus stop so I could go into town. My first problem was thinking that the closest bus stop was on the other side of campus. So, armed with campus map, I set out in what seemed to be an appropriate direction, and found my way there by trial, error, and the occasional sign post. I felt pretty proud of myself until I got on the bus and realised that its very next stop was the bus stop just above my college.

I wandered around town trying to find presstick (or "all purpose tack", if you prefer, which I don’t) and drawing pins and various other pound store type items, stopping frequently to consult my city map without gaining any better a sense of where I was. I’m hoping that some sense of place will kick in before the end of the year, but the fact that in third year I got lost in Central Block at Wits for 20 minutes doesn’t give me much hope.**

That evening we had a slightly more formal welcome event, where again thanks to the magical snowball effect, I met even more people through a girl I’d met on the tour. She’s studying medieval archaeology, so we felt a little intimated by the serious, practical guys we were chatting to, who were all studying things like health economics and mathematical finance. We completely failed to hear a mumble speech which could have been anything from welcoming us to the college to an initiation into a secret society, but we tried to laugh and clap at the right time, and I hope that in doing so we didn’t accidentally sign ourselves up for anything too sinister.*** I rejoined my gang from the previous night later in the evening, and found them in the process of voting on a name for the group. So on the one hand, I have a clique now, and we’re totally the cool kids. On the other hand, we’re the sort of group that votes on a name for ourselves, which probably makes us a little less cool.

Whatever. We’re awesome.

Yesterday I had another Being a Grown Up day, as I went to the bank yet again to try and apply for a current account. Opening one is becoming increasingly urgent, because my money is happily sitting in an online-only savings account, which means that I can transfer it around or stare at my balance as much as I like, but I can’t actually access it until I have a current account to withdraw from. So until such a time as the gods of banking choose to give me a current account, I’m living on my dwindling supply of cash.
Which probably means I should stop buying baking supplies, but I’m pretty sure they count as "essentials". I mean, how else would I make cake?

We got taken on a free open top bus tour in the afternoon, where we learned that York is basically full to the brim with dead Romans, to the extent that turning up several hundred skeletons every time they try to build a new shopping centre just isn’t worth making a fuss about any more, and that basically everyone has been killing everyone else since forever.

After the tour, Henrik and I had our very first visitors in the form of Jelle and Jason, who came to be envious of our kitchen and drink tea therein. We discussed cultural stereotypes (although no one had any opinion of South Africa – which, given that we’re represented by people like Juju, is actually probably a good thing) and Jelle and I got involved in a very interesting discussion of the morphosyntactic differences between Afrikaans and Dutch, much to the bafflement of the others.

Yesterday night we went to the "evening in the city", which was, as predicted, a glorified pub crawl. Or rather a pub hike, because it transpired that we were all a little optimistic with our confident assertions of "oh, surely they’ll bus us". Instead, they walked us into town, blindfolded us, spun us around and ran away.

Ok, that last part may not be strictly accurate.

They shepherded us from pub to pub (there was one with a juke box! Enthusiastic singing of Bohemian Rhapsody and Living on a Prayer occurred), but at the last one they seemed to leave us to our own devices, and so those of us who were fading early set out into the street to be really really intrepid. Some of the less intrepid but arguably wiser ones took a cab, but as we were a big group, the rest of us decided to walk back. Then we realised that no one had a map, and so we stood around in the street looking lost and tragic until Henrik mentioned that he knew the way, so we latched onto his navigation skills like baby ducklings, because it’s ok to mix metaphors after midnight, and set off for home (once we’d all entered into a verbal contract absolving him of responsibility if things went horribly awry).

And because my navigation skills play no part in this story, things actually didn’t go horribly awry. Bathos! We took one wrong turning, but apart from that and one long wait for a guy we know only as Fishnchips to stop for some fast food, we actually all made it home. Well, at least most of us did. We did lose Fishnchips and his friends somewhere along the way when our "let’s stroll on a bit while we wait for him" turned into "let’s carry on and they’ll catch up", but chances are good they made it home too. Or got eaten by wolves and bears. You never can tell, this far north.

I’ve made friends, I have a dinosaur duvet cover, I can now count to ten in Norwegian, I have a room big enough to play board games in and a kitchen shared with one clean and considerate person, and I haven’t yet been savaged by wolves or bears. Apart from my laptop’s continued resistance to connectivity, my life is pretty gosh darn awesome.

Sainsbury's is obviously keeping up with debates on my Facebook page. I maintain they're all naartjies.

*To be fair, it was born before I got there, but it’s my blog, so I’m telling it this way.
**But come on. Central Block’s really confusing.
***A little bit sinister would be fine.


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